Below you'll find some frequently asked questions about Nikkor lenses (and some generic lens questions, as well), complete with my answer.
(This page is an "accordion" of the sub-pages: you can click on a colored header bar below to reveal the contents of that sub-page.)
What lens should I get to shoot children's sports?
A common question without a perfect answer for most. That's because all those great sports shots you've seen were mostly shot with pro bodies with fast, long lenses. And from positions that you can't always get to. It really is a combination of those things that drives most great sports photography.
The difference between a D4 and a 300mm f/2.8 and a D7000 and a 70-300mm f4-5.6 can be as much as four stops when all is considered. In low-light or indoor situations where the D4 shooter needs ISO 1600 to get 1/500 action-stopping shutter speeds at f/2.8, the D7000/70-300mm user needs to set their camera to ISO 6400 to compensate for the f/5.6 maximum aperture. ISO 6400 on a D7000 doesn't look as good as ISO 6400 on a D4.
So, the answer to this question is three-fold:
- Get the best high ISO camera you can afford, and it needs a good AF system.
- Get fast lenses. For indoor work especially, you're better off with a shorter f/1.4 lens and cropping if you have to then you are with an f/5.6 lens.
- Get long lenses. For the big stadium sports, like football, soccer, and baseball, you're often very far from the action, so even 300mm usually won't cut it.
Thus, about the lowest cost choices these days that get you close to ideal are a D600 or D800 body, some f/1.4 to f/2.8 primes (50mm, 85mm, 105mm, 135mm, 180mm), and/or the 70-200mm f/2.8 type of zoom. This still leaves you with the "long" problem. At present there's no great solution here, as most of the more modest-priced lenses are zooms that are f/5.6 or f/6.3 at maximum focal length (80-400mm, 150-500mm, etc.). Thus, you're probably just as well off adding a TC-20E III to your 70-200mm if you can't afford a 300mm f/2.8, 300mm f/4, 200-400mm f/4, or something even more exotic.
What's better than the 14-24, 24-70, 70-200 combo?
For FX shooters, literally nothing if we're talking about zooms. The only complaints you'll usually hear from those that have these three lenses is that the 24-70mm doesn't have VR and the 14-24mm doesn't take filters. That's pretty incredible when you think about it. Two missing feature complaints, but no real performance complaints. That said, some FX shooters probably would be better served by primes (or at least mixing in a few primes). The f/2.8 aperture of the lens trinity removes some ability to isolate backgrounds.
DX shooters can't quite match this, but I'd suggest the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8, and either the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 or the Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 as a pretty good imitation.
My Lens Zooms When Walking With my Camera
You're describing "lens creep." This is when a zoom lens, pointed up or down, doesn't hold its focal length position (typically zooming out and making the lens stick out further). It ain't an Apple, but Sir Isaac Newton would still say it's "just gravity at work."
This creepy problem dates back to the early days of zooms: the old push-pull zooms are particularly prone to it, as there's often not much friction on the zoom action. In a few cases, I've seen focus "creep", too, but that's much more rare in these days of internal focusing lenses.
Some lenses have a "lock" position to keep them from extending while you're walking around. Not all lenses have that, though, so what's the solution?
A rubber band.
Yeah, a big, fat rubber band that's wide enough to grab the focus ring. When you don't want the lens to creep, leave part of the band on the ring and move some of it onto the lens barrel itself.
Don't have a big rubber band or prefer something commercial? Yes, there's a product called Lensband that will do the same thing. Or perhaps one of those charity-inspired wrist bands might be the right size for your lens and assuage your conscience at the same time.
What is photographic equivalence?
I'm answering this under lenses because the discussion often devolves to a lens issue.
To be clear, "photographic equivalence" means being able to take the exact same picture with different equipment. Now, it should be obvious that if I take a picture with a D7000 and a 35mm DX lens set to f/4, put that camera down and picked up another D7000 with a 35mm DX lens set to f/4, I should get the same exact image (assuming all my camera settings were the same, of course).
When Nikon introduced the DX DSLR (and Olympus the 4/3 DSLR) something different popped onto the scene from the 35mm film days. The capture areas are different in size and lenses don't seem to work the way they used to. Let's leave out sensor differences for the moment and just concentrate on the format/lens relationship.
Let's assume that we're comparing a DX DSLR (1.5x crop) to an FX DSLR. To take an equivalent image five things need to be the same: perspective, size of output, shutter speed, angle of view, and depth of field. The first three are very easy to deal with.
Perspective stays the same if we shoot in the same place, so let's do so ;~).
Size of output is easy: we'll just make 8x10" prints from both the DX and FX image we shoot.
Shutter speed is a snap, we'll just...oh oh, we might have a little bit of a problem with that if the aperture changes, but let's just go ahead and say we have a stationary subject and the shutter speed will be fast enough no matter what to cancel out any camera motion.
Angle of view has three variables: focal length, imaging circle, and size of capture area. I'm going to assume that we're using a lens with a big enough imaging circle. If we put that 24mm lens on a DX camera and on an FX camera, the angle of view that is seen is different due to the size of the capture area: DX crops. On DX we get 52° horizontal, on FX we get 74°. Oops, that's not "equivalent." So we'll put a 24mm lens on DX (52°) and a 36mm lens on FX (52°). We needed almost exactly 1.5x the focal length for FX that we did for DX to get to equivalence (technically it varies slightly with different DX sensors, but not enough to worry about).
Many people believe that depth of field stays the same for the same perspective (the Merklinger thesis), but even if we were to use Zeiss we'd find that we don't have to worry about this variable (it just takes a lot of math to get there, which I'm not going to do here). We're using different focal lengths, so guess what, it turns out that we'll need a different aperture to get the equivalent photo, simple as that.
Which brings us to the grand conclusion that usually precipitates the asking of this question: you'll need to use about one stop faster aperture on DX to get the equivalent image as FX. But you can get the equivalent image.
Likewise, m4/3 is about a stop off from DX, so to get the look of a 50mm f/2 lens (FX) on DX you'd need a ~35mm f/1.4 lens (one stop difference), and on m4/3 you'd need a 25mm f/1 lens (two stops difference). Which explains why I have a 25mm f/0.95 lens for my GH3.
Unfortunately, you can't always get exactly the right lens for all needed equivalencies: for example, we can use a 200mm f/2 lens on our DX body to get what we got from our 300mm f/2.8 lens on our film or FX bodies. Nikon makes both. But if we wanted to match 200mm f/2 FX, we'd need a 135mm f/1.4, which doesn't exist. Of course, if we were shooting that 200mm FX at f/8, we could use the 135mm f/2DC set to f/5.6 to get basically the same shot. All of which will probably lead you to another question ("but is the light hitting a DX sensor the same as that hitting the FX sensor?) which is another question for another day, and isn't a lens question anyway.
What type of photography would require a 50mm lens?
I don't usually answer this type of question, but for some reason I'm in the mood today.
A fast 50mm lens on a DX body fits into the low end of what most photographers would call the "portrait lens" range. In other words, you can isolate the upper body and face and throw the background out of focus with a fast aperture, giving you the classic "it's just about the person" shot.
But here's the reason why I don't usually answer such questions: that use of a fast 50mm on DX results in a photographic cliche. And it's not the only thing you could use a 50mm lens for.
The real answer is that photographers have a range of choices in their camera bag. The bigger the range of choices, the more things they can do, whether it be cliche, or perhaps something less cliche such as using the 50mm to do a huge landscape pano stitching project (e.g. lots of semi-telephoto shots with detail stitched into a wide angle landscape shot).
How do I estimate the focal length I need?
The rule of thumb is that approximately one-quarter of the viewfinder area is about the same as a focal length that's double what you're using. For example, if you've got a 24mm lens on the camera, split the viewfinder horizontally and vertically and one of those four boxes is about what you'd get with a 50mm lens. This isn't a perfect predictor, but it's close enough to get yourself to the approximate lens you need.
Should I buy a third party lens for my Nikon body?
Maybe. It's clear that the third-party makers have offerings that fill in many, if not most, of the gaps in Nikon's own lens lineup. The question then becomes whether those lenses are up to the level of the Nikkors.
I'm going to do a lot of generalizing here, so be careful of over interpreting my remarks.
Let me first take this topic on by cost. In general, at the lowest cost points, I've found the Nikkors to be almost universally significantly better than the third-party lenses in my testing, though the gap in performance has lowered over the years. The 18-55mm Nikkor VR essentially sells for US$99 when you buy it with a body. That performance and price point is hard to top: the 18-55mm Nikkor VR is a very good lens, has little sample variation in my experience (I've now tested six), and comes at a pretty unbelievable price. What I've seen in the low-cost third party lenses is poorer corner performance and chromatic aberration control, poorer quality control, and prices that really don't undercut Nikon.
Now let's take this by brand. Sigma tends to produce very sharp lenses, but seems to have somewhat erratic quality control. I've gotten several "bad samples" of Sigma lenses in the past few years. But the good samples tend to test very, very well. Just make sure you know how to test for bad samples and have a good return policy from your dealer if you buy Sigma.
Tamron seems to be fairly consistent on quality control, much like Nikon. I've rarely encountered a bad sample of a Tamron lens, though I have encountered bad reverse engineering (their 28-300mm caused Dead Battery Syndrome on my D700). Again, fairly sharp lenses in most of my recent tests. But one thing I've noticed recently is that Tamron hasn't perfected the in-lens motor. Many of the in-lens motor versions of Tamron lenses autofocus more slowly (and noisely) than the screw-drive versions. On the flip side, Tamron's optical stabilization seems better than Nikon's.
Tokina lenses have a reputation as being very sharp. Indeed, every one I've tested has been. But I've also had a lot of flare issues with Tokina lenses, enough that I tend to avoid them when I have a different choice. All that said, if a third party maker has a lens variation that Nikon doesn't and you need that, don't be afraid to try them.
Why does my 18-200mm not seem like it gets to 200mm?
Lenses are labelled based upon performance at infinity focus. Many very complex lenses (e.g. superzooms) lose focal length as you focus closer, a trait called "focal length breathing." Optical designs balance an enormous number of variables, and in aggressive designs (e.g. superzooms) something has to give. What "gave" in the 18-200mm design is focal length reach at close distances. The very first superzoom—the Tamron 28-200mm back in film days—also made the same compromise. So the 18-200mm's performance isn't anything new. Likewise, the 28-300mm FX Nikkor has a similar problem.
Note that the 70-200mm f/2.8G AF-S VRII also has a form of focal length breathing, and this is obvious when compared directly to the original version of the 70-200mm. See my review of the VRII version for more details.
Do we still need fast lenses with great high ISO cameras?
Yes, if you’re serious about all aspects of photography.
Fast aperture is not the same as high ISO. Aperture can produce differing effects of depth of field that high ISO by itself does not. High ISO has differing effects on dynamic range and noise that aperture does not. A serious photographer wants both arrows in his or her quiver.
Which VR Nikkors detect when they're on a tripod?
According to Nikon:
- 55-300mm DX
- 200-400mm VRII
- 400mm VR
- 600mm VRII
All other lenses should have their VR turned Off while on tripods. Note that II on the lens name doesn't mean VR II, it means second edition of the lens. You have to look in the manual that came with the lens to find out if it has VR II or not.
When should I use VR? When should I turn it off?
VR should always be off unless you explicitly require it. It should usually be off for shutter speeds over 1/500. It should be off if you're on a stable tripod even if the VR system says it is tripod aware. Basically, VR should be off unless you can guarantee that without it, you'll get camera motion in your shots.
See my article on VR.
How many lenses has Nikon made?
- June 2013: 80 million
- November 2012: 70 million
- April 2011: 60 million
- September 2010: 20 million SWM-equipped (AF-S) lenses
- August 2010: 55 million
- August 2009: 50 million
- August 2008: 45 million
- August 2007: 40 million
- April 2004: 35 million
- May 2001: 30 million
Current production rate is 7m+ a year and growing in double-digit percentages each year.
Can I use Nikkor lenses on other cameras?
Maybe. Depends upon the camera.
You can use most older Nikon lenses on Canon bodies, for instance, with the right adapter. Most of the mirrorless cameras (Olympus and Panasonic m4/3, Samsung NX, and Sony NEX) can use Nikon lenses with the right adapter, as well.
But—you knew there was a but coming, right?—there is one thing you need to watch out for. Nikon's lens design uses a mechanical connection to the camera to adjust the actual aperture. So, with lenses that don't have aperture rings (G-type), mounting them on another camera with an adapter means you're stuck at the smallest aperture. What you need in that case is an adapter that allows you to manually manipulate the lens aperture arm. Such adapters exist, but usually are more expensive and you won't have specific f/stop markings to guide you.
Older Nikkors with aperture rings generally work better on other cameras because of that: the aperture ring still works for setting f/stops directly.
One other thing to note: you may be restricted to only certain exposure modes with that other camera, and some—such as the Sony NEX models—need to be set specifically to shoot "without a lens" because no electrical signals are being transmitted through the lens mount as the camera expects.
What's the difference between all the 50mm lenses?
The f/1.8D is a D lens and has an aperture ring, the f/1.4G and f/1.8G are G lenses and don't. The D lens has screw-drive autofocus, which only works on D7100 and above bodies (in the current lineup), while the two G lenses are AF-S and focus will work on all current Nikon DSLRs, even the low end consumer DSLRs without screw-drive (D3200 and D5200).
Beyond that, the faster f/1.4 lens is considerably more expensive. The difference between f/1.4 and f/1.8 is two-thirds of a stop, and that could make a difference to some low light shooters. However, at f/5.6 the optical differences between the three lenses are nearly indistinguishable, so the real issue is how often will you be shooting wide open? Always? Then get the f/1.4G. Rarely? Then get the very low cost f/1.8D if your camera supports it; otherwise, you're stuck with the f/1.8G. Curiously, the f/1.8G is probably the sharpest of the three.
Why can't Nikon make a stable tripod collar?
Excellent question for which there isn't a good answer. Funny thing is, older Nikon lenses do seem to have very good tripod collars. It's only been in recent times that we've seen slop in the connection between the collar and the lens that impacts results. Perhaps Nikon thinks that having VR on most of these lenses now obviates the need for a tight, locking collar. If they think that, they are wrong. Very wrong. The final answer is this: they CAN make a stable tripod collar, they just AREN'T.
For some lenses, you can find collars made by third parties that are better. Two sites to look at for better collars are Really Right Stuff and Kirk Enterprises. They aren't produced for all lenses (partly because it requires that the lens have a removable collar in the first place), but in my experience the third party solutions are always better when they exist for a lens.
Why do some lens tests disagree?
Plenty of possibilities exist to explain that, but there are four you need to be very careful to consider. First, sample variation can definitely be a problem, even for high-end Nikkor lenses. It doesn't take much to make a lens underperform in tests. Miscentered elements, slightly offset elements, an internal cam that's not quite positioned right, the list of things that could be wrong are nearly endless. Fortunately, sample variation problems are almost always mechanical issues, which means that the maker can usually fix them by disassembly and careful reassembly.
The other thing that you might not realize is that most lens testing is done at relatively close distances. Lens designs can be better when focused close than far away, or worse. It's a rare lens that is at its best from its closest focus distance all the way to infinity. This problem is especially true for wide angle lenses, where the size chart you'd need to fully test a lens at a "normal" distance would be huge. You can do various things to deal with this problem as a tester, but not every tester does the same thing.
One big thing that sometimes is an issue is that many lenses aren't designed to focus on a flat field (e.g. test chart). Many lenses have a curved field of focus that varies in some complex ways. Thus, if you test one of those lenses on a flat chart with only central focus used, you get very bad results for the edges, where the focus has curved away from the plane of the chart.
The other big thing that's a problem is that many of the testers, including myself, are using digital cameras with automated interpretation software (Imatest). Unfortunately, over time, the cameras change, so you can't always compare today's results directly with yesterday's. So you have to be careful to understand whether a lens test report was done with a D200 or a D4, a D300 or a D800E. Each camera would report different numbers due to their different pixel densities and antialiasing filters.
Personally, I run a wide variety of tests, often at different focus distances, on both flat and no-flat targets. I don't report numbers on lens tests for two reasons: first, to fully describe a lens there would be a massive amount of data to report, and second, you'd have to know how to interpret that data. I prefer to just present concise written summaries of what I found in my testing. I think that's just a better way for most people to understand the strengths and weaknesses of a lens.
Will we get sensors that outresolve our lenses?
There's no easy answer to that question. Most lenses "resolve" just fine and easily reach above 100 line pair per millimeter at a range of apertures in the central area. The lens isn't the only thing in the optical chain, though. We've got antialiasing filters above the sensor that attempt to remove high frequency information, apertures in the lens that cause diffraction, and the sensor itself, which introduces a whole range of additional factors (Bayer filtration, microlenses, photosite pitch, less than 100% fill, etc.).
I usually phrase things differently than "outresolve our lenses." First, I write about "declining returns." At some point, diffraction and other factors get us to the point where having more pixels is not as rewarding as it used to be. I believe we hit that bar at 24mp on DX (I first made that comment in 2003 based upon calculations I did then, and it's looking very much like I was very close to the way things are going to work out). Beyond that, the gain might not be worth the effort or expense.
Let me be clear, though: more sampling (e.g. more pixels) is always good in at least one respect: it provides a clear picture (pardon the pun) of what the real analog data would be. I'll always take more pixels. But the reason why this question is here in the lens section is that those extra pixels may not truly be delivering more clearly visible resolution or acuity once we get past a certain point.
So a better question might be: will my DX lenses still look great at 24mp? The answer is that some will, some won't. We already see clear differences at 16mp. The 18-200mm, for instance, which looked great with 6mp cameras and was still good with 12mp cameras, doesn't quite do as well as some other lenses on a 16mp camera. It doesn't manage as well on a 24mp DX camera, either.
By that I mean this: the higher resolution sensors are showing us the strong and weak abilities of a lens more clearly. You can often see that in the corners of the frame when you pixel peep, as lens performance in almost every aspect tends to drop as you move away from the center.
But there's another aspect to this question. If you shot with both a 12mp and 24mp camera and printed at the same reasonable size (say 8x10"), even a "weak" lens might look slightly better in some aspects with the higher mp camera. It certainly shouldn't look worse in such a comparison. Thus, my comment about the 18-200mm being weak on the high pixel count sensors tends to only be evident if you're pushing print sizes upward. If you had 300 dpi in the print from a lower pixel count sensor shooting with the 18-200mm and you kept the print size the same, the print should look about the same (again, maybe a slight advantage to the higher pixel count camera due to improved edge acuity). On the other hand, if you now think you can print 2x larger because you've doubled the pixel count, you're going to be in for a surprise: you're going to see the lenses' performance pretty clearly.
If I focus at 24mm and zoom in to 120mm I lose focus
Modern lenses are not "true zooms." Almost all recent lenses marked "zoom" are not actually a zoom lenses at all, but varifocal lenses.
Simply put, you must refocus every time you change the focal length of these lenses.
Okay, I feel another question coming...here it comes...yes, I can feel it...: so why did the lens makers stop making true zoom lenses? It has to do with optical designs and autofocus performance, mostly. By allowing the focus elements to operate separately from the zoom elements, you can put less mass into the focus system, which has performance impacts. This also opened up some new optical designs, resulting in better, faster, or smaller lenses (all else equal).
Ironically, the push towards adding video to still cameras has probably got the lens designers all in a tizzy, because video zooms prefer focus to stay put. Oops. You may have seen some lenses labeled with something like "optimized for video." Yep, true zoom is usually one of the "optimizations." Funny how things go full circle sometimes.
Why does my lens focus past infinity?
Most modern lens designs use special low dispersion elements, like ED glass, which has some small variance in its optical abilities that varies with temperature. Put simply, the "infinity" position changes on these lenses at different temperatures. The autofocus system, of course, doesn't go by the markings on the focus distance ring, it works by phase or contrast detection. Likewise, if you manually focus such lenses visually, you're fine, too. But the focus distance markings are not perfectly reliable, and that's one reason why we see camera makers moving away from providing them.
How do I correct the back focus my lens produces?
First and foremost, make sure that it really back focuses. Most advice on testing for this is just dead wrong, because it doesn't account for what the autofocus sensors actually see and do.
Putting an autofocus sensor on a test target that's at an angle won't get you the right results. That's because the autofocus sensor is really an array of sensors and they "vote" on where the subject is. If more of the array is on the background than the foreground, guess where the camera might focus?
Nikon sort of mentions this in their manuals when they talk about use of wide angle lenses shooting small subjects with busy backgrounds using a wide angle lens. What they're trying to say is that more of the autofocus sensor is likely to see the busy background than the small foreground subject in such cases, and thus the camera will focus on the background.
I recommend that you use a product such as LensAlign. If you look at the design of the LensAlign product, for instance, it does things right: you focus on a target that is absolutely parallel to the sensor, thus eradicating the potential for the autofocus sensor array to pick up something at a different distance. Then you READ the answer on the diagonal chart that's attached. They also have optional FocusTune software that will do that interpretation work for you. (Other solutions exist, but LensAlign was really the first one that did it right, and is simple enough that anyone should be able to use it correctly. Disclosure: LensAlign has provided samples of their products to me without charge for testing.)
If you already have a LensAlign you already know the rest of the answer to the question: use the LensAlign tool and the camera's built-in AF Fine Tune function to correct the focus. Low end consumer Nikon DSLRs don't have AF Fine Tune (e.g. D3200 and D5200); only the high-end consumer, prosumer, and pro DSLRs do (e.g. D7100, D300s, D600, D800, and D4).
I'd add a bit of a caveat to the preceding: if you use multiple bodies or zoom lenses, AF Fine Tune doesn't necessarily fix your problem. Moreover, lens/body combinations that are far out of alignment (>10 on the AF Fine Tune adjustment) probably ought to be looked at by Nikon. In my experience, something that needs a compensation of 15-20 in AF Fine Tune means that something is near manufacturing tolerances (and can often be beyond correction if the other part of the body/lens equation is set to what amounts to an opposite compensation), and only Nikon can really fix that permanently. Unfortunately, the feedback I get from people using Nikon repair service to adjust AF Fine Tune values is highly negative for the most part: it often takes two or more repairs to get things "better," and rarely do you end up with products that are at 0.
How do I manually focus lenses with current DSLRs?
The viewfinder "focus" screen on modern cameras is optimized for brightness, not focus verification. (By the way, you customers asked for it to be this way and the camera companies complied.) You have three choices: use Live View, especially with magnification; use the autofocus verification indication in the viewfinder; or get a focus-help screen like those sold by Katz Eye.
I should note that with some cameras (D800 and D4) you can use HDMI output to an external HDMI monitor for Live View. This gives you a few potential gains: you can get a bigger than 3" screen (7" is typical these days, and you can get bigger), and many of these external HDMI monitors have focus peaking built in. Focus peaking is a method by which the display is highlighted in areas that are "in focus."
I've got a small scratch on my lens. Is my lens worthless?
Not at all. Even on a wide angle lens it isn't likely that most people will see any change to their images.
It is possible that you may "see" the problem area with a wide angle lens when focusing very close with small apertures, as on some designs it's more than possible to bring the front element nearly into the focus area, but still, I'd judge this to be a rare occurrence. The longer the focal length of the lens, the less likely you'll see any tangible image quality issue from a small scratch.
Mostly the scratch is just slightly reducing contrast.
Nikon says I should ship a lens for repair without caps
I don't like this advice.
When you ship things to Nikon repair you should remove all non-essential items (lens hoods, filters, tripod collars and plates, etc.), but do leave the front and rear lens cap on. The only exception I make to this rule is if the accessory itself is part of something that needs repair (e.g. the tripod collar is bent or broken). The glass on your lens needs protection, and the caps are the best protection you've got. Nikon should return the lens with caps if you sent it to them that way. I use a Brother P-touch label printer to create small labels I put on everything, and it seems that Nikon always sends back my lens with my caps when they're being serviced.
I should note a couple of other things, though. First, on your repair request, make sure that you indicate that you sent the lens with caps. Usually there's an Supplied Accessories field you can specify that in, but you can always just write something like "50mm f/1.4G lens with front/rear caps" in the Item Description. If Nikon doesn't return your lens with caps, this is what you point to in order to get new caps! Second, while you may be tempted to send your equipment to Nikon in its original box, in almost no case will you get the original box back. Nikon wraps and seals repaired equipment in bubble wrap, and puts that in generic boxes when they return it. So if you want to keep your box, don't send it.
I just dropped my new lens in the ocean, what should I do?
Click on one of the Support this Site or Advertising links and order a new one?
Oh, wait, this is supposed to be a real answer not a facetious one.
Okay, let's break this into a couple of categories: lens versus camera, ocean versus fresh water.
Let's start with the bad news possibility first: camera dropped into any water. You have a minuscule chance of recovering a camera dropped into fresh water and no chance of recovering one dropped into ocean water. But to maximize what little chance you have: remove the battery IMMEDIATELY. On the D3 and D4 cameras, that means the clock batteries, too. Electrical current plus water is a no-no for electronics. If it went into salt water, flush the camera with distilled water. Next, clean off all the water you can, as well as you can. If you know how to disassemble a camera, I'd do that and get as much visible water out of the insides as I can, but very few people would be capable of doing this, let alone in the field where it would need to be done. Next, put the camera in a warm, 0% humidity environment with as little open air as possible, and with all doors, caps, etc. open, plus with as many silica gel absorbers as you can stuff in. Wait two days minimum before doing anything else. If you're really lucky, not enough water got to the internal circuitry with power still active to start the corrosive processes that usually occur. Ocean water (and some bad freshwater sources) have too many salts and contaminants and trigger corrosion pretty much no matter what. If that happens, the camera may be gotten to work for awhile, but the long term prognosis is terrible. Once corrosion sets in, the electronics are compromised. Nikon will not repair equipment with corrosion damage.
With a lens you have a slightly better chance, even with salt water. That's because it isn't quite as electronic, and the electronic parts can sometimes be easily replaced, if necessary. Indeed, older manual focus lenses may come through dunkings relatively unscathed, though if water gets between elements they need to be disassembled and each element cleaned, then the whole thing reassembled. But the same is true: remove power immediately (get the lens off the camera), dry as much as you can, put into a 0% humidity warm environment with as little air as possible and as many silica gel packs as possible until the moisture is all gone. If you dropped the item into salt water, you want to flush with distilled water before trying to dry.
What, you don't travel with silica gel packs? ;~)
Should I get the 16-35mm, 17-35mm, or the 14-24mm?
I think we can pretty much eliminate the 17-35mm these days. As good as it was during its day, both the other lenses surpass it, especially in terms of corner sharpness and chromatic aberration avoidance at extremes.
The big questions then become: do you need to use filters (get the 16-35mm), do you worry about linear distortion (get the 14-24mm), do you know how to frame extremely wide angle (get the 14-24mm), do you need faster apertures (get the 14-24mm), and do you need the most versatile focal range (get the 16-35mm). Resolve those questions and you have your answer.
Which of my lenses should I take to Yellowstone?
I don't normally answer such questions. But this one comes up in my email so much, especially in the summer months, I'll give you a short answer in hopes that's enough ;~).
Yellowstone, like Denali, is a bit bipolar in photographic opportunities. On the one hand you have large geographic features that you can approach closely, so a good wide angle zoom is handy. On the other hand you have wildlife that may be some distance from you (and in some cases like bears, should be a long distance away if you're following park regulations). There you need a fast, very telephoto lens (fast to remove distracting backgrounds, very telephoto to bring the animal in close). Of course, most of you reading this probably have your family along, so a mid-range zoom or primes to take "family vacation photos" is probably going to keep you out of the doghouse. In spring (which is usually a bit late in Yellowstone), a macro lens is useful for flowers.
But the real answer is simpler: you take lenses that match your shooting style, always. So many folk think that "a different lens" is the answer to any photographic problem. It generally isn't. One of the reasons why I'll answer this question here is that you're in a national park. If you want to get any reasonable shot of wild animals without violating park regulations, you need a long telephoto lens.
My 105mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor won't go to f/2.8!
Aperture = Focal Length / Diameter. That's the simplified formula.
Lens designers of macro lenses have two basic choices: they can (1) extend the focus barrel to get close focus, which would tend to double the lens length at 1:1; or (2) they can shift the focal length slightly to keep from extending the lens much (if any). Most macro lenses use a bit of both strategies. But if you change the focal length without changing the diameter of the lens opening (that would be a real trick), you're going to change the maximum aperture rating of the lens. In real life, the lens makers do a bit of both, but that means that as you focus closer you will find the maximum aperture you can set changes. Here are some of the differences:
- 40mm: infinity f/2.8, close focus f/4.2
- 60mm: infinity f/2.8, close focus f/4.8
- 85mm DX: infinity f/3.5, close focus f/5
- 105mm: infinity f/2.8, close focus f/4.8
- 200mm: infinity f/4, close focus f/5.3
I'm going to shoot a volcano. How do I clean my lens?
This is one of the very few situations where I tend to recommend protective filters. The problem is that you don't know what's in the air (let alone what's in the ash, should any land on your lens). Sometimes the chemical mix of a volcanic eruption can be toxic to lens coatings, but very small particles in the air can also be highly abrasive. Thus, if you expose the front element of your lens to the volcanic air for any length of time, it's possible that you end up with stuff on your lens that "normal" cleaning will simply mush into the coating or lens surface and abrade. It's best to avoid that possibility at all by letting a filter take the hit.
Which filter should I buy to protect my new lens?
I don't believe in filters for protection on lenses, with the possible exception of a situation where I know dangerous chemicals might be thrown at the front element of the lens (e.g. in a chemical factory). (See FAQ on volcanos).
Filters always rob a bit of light (and in some cases, a lot of light), increase flare tendencies, and add to your equipment cost. To date, I've not seen a single controlled study that shows that filters actually offer real protection. Indeed, some of us believe that the opposite is sometimes true with cheap filters: if a glass filter shatters it tends to scratch the front element of the lens.
The real reason why every store salesman asks you if you'd like a protective filter with that lens you just bought is because it increases the store's profit margin. Considerably. Consider a US$1000 lens and US$50 filter. The store will make US$150 on the lens, US$25 or more on the filter. Thus, even though the filter added only 5% to the cost of your lens, it added 17%+ to the dealer's profit. The only thing that's more lucrative is if they can sell you an extended warranty with that lens (in the US, a Nikkor already comes with a 4-year extension to the warranty, by the way).
See my article on filters.
Where is "Focus" Measured From?
Where is minimum focus distance measured from?
It's measured from the focal plane. On a film camera that's where the film sits; on a digital camera it's where the sensor sits. On almost all Nikon bodies, this point is marked with a small symbol (circle with a line through it).
Where is working focus distance measured from?
Working focus distance is a term used with macro lenses. This is the distance from subject to the front of the lens at maximum magnification (remember also that some macro lenses extend outward as they focus closer). With insects and other living things, usually you want longer working distances rather than short ones. Shorter focal length lenses (60mm macro) tend to have shorter working focus distances than longer focal length lenses (105mm macro). Light also has to get to your subject past the lens. With very short working distances sometimes you can't get light into the subject. For example, Nikon's current macro flash setup works sufficiently for the 105mm and 200mm lenses at minimum working distance, but on the 60mm the angle of the light to the subject is very severe.